For Com Hem, a Swedish supplier of broadband and television services, deploying a unified headend to deliver linear video across cable, IPTV and over-the-top TV networks is the next crucial step to staying nimble in the marketplace. Com Hem, which was founded in 1983 and spun out of Sweden’s former telecommunications monopoly, has kept its eye on becoming a one-stop shop for customers and providing the best quality video experience regardless of platform or delivery method.
Elemental’s flexible and scalable unified headend solutions enable Com Hem to explore the benefits of multiscreen video delivery and optimize quality on a per network basis, while allowing the company to respond to market opportunities more quickly. This is especially important given the speed at which technology is changing – as new devices get introduced, next generation television services evolve, and in the OTT space, delivery protocols and digital rights management requirements continue to push the envelope.
With nearly 40% market penetration among Swedish households, Com Hem’s 1.92 million broadband, television and telephony customers are among the most digital savvy on the continent. According to the European Commission’s recently published Digital Economy and Society Index, Sweden ranked as the second most digital country in Europe based on factors such as connectivity, digital skills and overall Internet usage. A unified headend is one of the key factors strengthening Com Hem’s position as the largest cable operator in Scandinavia. And thanks to SDV-enabled solutions from Elemental, Com Hem is uniquely positioned to evolve with the demands of customers and the future.
Last month, Elemental announced that Sky is leveraging Elemental software to power and deliver its over-the-top (OTT) TV service NOW TV and mobile TV service, Sky Go. In a special press event at the Sky campus in West London, Elemental and Sky executives provided a definitive roadmap for the video industry as it rockets toward a new and exciting all-IP, multi-platform future.
Sky’s innovative VOD and linear OTT services and advanced video infrastructure set it apart from other content providers, and Elemental is proud to support Sky every step of the way. This second installment of a two-part blog post provides insights from Matt McDonald, Director of Broadcast Services and responsible for all things video/content supply chain at Sky.
Sky's OTT Proposition
By Matt McDonald, Director of Broadcast Services at Sky
It’s really clear that OTT is growing in importance all the time for Sky.
We’ve dramatically increased our focus both in terms of our standalone OTT proposition NOW TV and in our core hybrid proposition around Sky+ HD and Sky Go. Why is this important?
First, increased content consumption. For example, we are seeing about 2.6 billion downloads and streams in a given year. Second, our move into the ‘pay light’ market with NOW TV. This is a contract-free, flexible way to consume Sky content and it is growing all the time.
From a technology and operations point of view, multiplatform has to be inherent in everything we do. We have to be thinking about multiplatform and multiscreen, how we deliver VOD, and the implications of these trends in our VOD and linear OTT workflows.
Customers want choice with content - to watch it when, how, and where they want. We need to have platforms that can make that happen. From a quality point of view, this means providing the best possible customer experience and picture quality for the device, content genre, and available bandwidth. At Sky, we maintain and continuously optimize more than 20 different profiles for our VOD content to achieve this.
In addition to choice, customers want minimum delay from the action appearing on screen the first time to when it reappears in catchup. We have 38 different catchup channels on Sky Go. For big events and shows, viewers expect content to be there at the time we say it’s going to be there. At Sky, we say modern day “black to air” is when a VOD asset is not there at 9pm and consumers were expecting it to be there at 9pm. Speed is really, really important: we need to make sure that we can process content quickly and that it’s highly available and reliable.
Choice of content means massive scale. We are a big volume operation and must be able to provide the massive catalogue of content customers expect. We process tens of thousands of hours of assets a month and we need to be able to scale to deal with peaks in demand. Of course, nobody in Sky wants to compromise. We want it all: picture quality; ubiquity across all the bitrates; and high availability and scalability. Hence, our encoder choice is key.
How do we provide VOD content to all of these different OTT propositions? The Sky content supply chain is effectively a completely automated end-to-end workflow from ingest to publish. We can manage assets rights, asset scheduling across different platforms, orchestration of assets through content preparation, and track assets through each individual stage – ingest, transcode, QC, encryption, and/or publication. This engine enables us to operate at mass volume and to provide VOD catalogues both in terms of throughput and how you want to see it today as a Sky customer.
Elemental sits right in the heart of our supply chain, powering this engine and all our VOD assets. Why Elemental? We chose Elemental first and foremost because of balance. We needed picture quality across all the different bitrates and we needed high-speed processing. Elemental really hit the mark and satisfied our needs; it is a well-rounded transcode product.
Architecturally, Elemental is the right fit for us. We know it can scale to big processing peaks and it integrates well into our highly automated workflow engine.
Lastly, the software-based approach is simply faster. We see quicker feature development as well as fast roadmap turnaround and bug fixes. It is a key part of why we like working with Elemental. At the moment, Elemental is powering the Sky content supply engine, including all our VOD assets across Sky Go and NOW TV as they exist today.
But, at Sky, we don’t like to stand still. We have fantastic live linear content and that presents us with new challenges. Currently, we are in the process of re-engineering our linear, or as we refer to it, our IP video headend. With an end-to-end IP video architecture (content acquisition to stream conditioning and publishing), we can deliver both better quality for customers and dramatically accelerate Sky’s ability to provide new features and capabilities.
As part of our IP headend rebuild, we selected a new transcode platform; we chose Elemental. We made this decision for reasons similar to those that led to our initial purchase of Elemental solutions: we liked the balance with Elemental’s ability to deliver quality across different bitrates and we liked them architecturally. The software-based architecture is a really good fit. Their views and roadmap are very much aligned with where we are going. Over the next couple months, we will have rolled out our premium linear services on the Elemental platform and will go forward evolving with Elemental.
We know OTT is important. We know it is critical for Sky. And, we know that we need an architecture that is fast and responsive in this very dynamic OTT world. We see Elemental as a key component of this infrastructure.
Now’s the time to sign up for the most popular new event at IBC 2015: the 4K 4Charity Fun Run! Celebrating major Ultra HD achievements in the industry, this event promotes wellness, networking and charitable giving in a fun and casual environment.
- Start time: Saturday, September 12 at 7:30 am (day two of IBC 2015)
- Distance and course: 4km (2.49-mile) run through Amstel Park in Amsterdam (walking distance from the RAI)
- Charity: CARE, a leading humanitarian organization that fights global poverty
- Registration: Open now to all IBC show attendees
Since the inaugural 4K 4Charity Fun Run last September in Amsterdam, we’ve seen participation grow dramatically thanks to a wellspring of support from around the world and across the industry. This video of the most recent run, held in Las Vegas at the 2015 NAB Show, does a really nice job of conveying the vibe at the event.
Why the enthusiasm for a 4K 4Charity Fun Run? That fantastic feeling as you cross the finish line while supporting a shared cause with friends and colleagues or even just submitting your donation! With more than $60,000 raised to date for charities, the media and entertainment tech community is making a HUGE impact for those in need. At the same time, we are creating a healthy, positive and enduring tradition for the industry. This spirit of generosity and adventure is contagious and you can catch it today by registering at 4K 4Charity Fun Run at IBC 2015.
Thank you to all 4K 4Charity Fun Run IBC 2015 sponsors for their support and generosity. Without you, this positive industry event would not be possible:
- Co-founding sponsors Elemental Technologies and Ericsson
- Association sponsor IBC
- Premier sponsor Aspera (an IBM company)
- Executive sponsors Brightcove, Dolby, EVS and Verimatrix
- Supporting sponsor Clearleap
- Grab bag sponsor ChyronHego
- Media partners Advanced Television, NewBay Media Europe | Intent Media, and Rapid TV News
A limited number of sponsorship positions are still open. If you are interested, please contact Laura Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether this is your first time or your third 4K 4Charity Fun Run, supporting this event will undoubtedly be a highlight of your time at the show. We hope you’ll join us on September 12 in Amsterdam! Register at 4k4charity.com.